Theresa May to unveil plans for new workers' rights, but abandons living wage pledge
But the Prime Minister will abandon plans to offer a £9 per hour National Living Wage
Theresa May - image credit: Philip Toscano/PA Wire/Press Association Images
Workers would have the right to take up to a year’s unpaid leave to care for a sick family member under plans expected to be unveiled by Theresa May later today.
The speech will also see the Prime Minister abandon plans, set out by George Osborne, for the National Living Wage to hit £9/hour. May will instead promise that it will increase by median earnings in every year of the next parliament.
Labour’s responded by accusing the Tories of “taking working people for fools” and insisted only his party would improve their rights.
May will announce 11 new proposals, which she said will form the “greatest expansion in workers’ rights by any Conservative government in history”.
As well as the carer’s leave plan, which is modelled on the Irish model, there would be a statutory right to bereavement leave when an employee loses their child and greater protections for those suffering intermittent mental health problems.
And workers would have a statutory right to request – but not necessarily be granted – unpaid leave for training purposes.
The Tory policy list features earlier announcements, such as extending the powers of the Pensions Regulator to weigh in on takeovers that could put employees’ pensions at risk and the transposition of existing EU worker regulations into British law after Brexit.
It also spells out May’s plans to give workers a greater voice in the boardroom. Listed companies would have to designate a director as the employee representative, directly appoint a worker to the board, or create “stakeholder advisory panels”.
Employees would also be given similar rights as shareholders to request information about the company.
May will say: “I said I would use Brexit to extend the protections and rights that workers enjoy, and our manifesto will deliver exactly that. Our plans, backed up with strong and stable leadership, will be the greatest expansion in workers’ rights by any Conservative Government in history.
“By working with business, reducing taxes and dealing with the deficit we have delivered steady improvements to the economic prospects of working people. Now is the time to lock in that economic growth and ensure the proceeds are spread to everyone in our country.
“There is only one leader at this election who will put rights and opportunities for ordinary working families first. The choice next month is clear: economic stability and a better deal for workers under my Conservative team, or chaos under Jeremy Corbyn, whose nonsensical policies would trash the economy and destroy jobs.”
But Andrew Gwynne, Labour’s campaigns and elections chair, accused Mrs May of leading a government that has “failed to stand up for workers” since 2010.
“The Tories have spent the last seven years prioritising the few, opposing Labour's proposals to give workers more rights and overseeing wage stagnation which has left people worse off.
“Today’s ridiculous claims are yet more evidence that this election is a choice between a Tory party that fails working people and a Labour Party that will stand up for working people and deliver a better, fairer Britain.”
The Conservative announcement appears to alter the party’s plans for the National Living Wage, the floor for employees over the age of 25 which currently stands at £7.50/hour.
Under George Osborne the NLW was supposed to hit £9/hour by 2020. But today’s document makes no mention of the £9/hour rate, instead committing: “The Government will increase our National Living Wage in line with median incomes for the whole of the next Parliament. As happens now, the Low Pay Commission will advise on the level of pay based on independent data.”
The Bank of England forecasts that average earnings will increase by two per cent this year, and between three per cent and four per cent in 2018 and 2019 meaning the formula would be expected to leave the NLW at less than £9 by the end of the decade.
Labour has said it would extend the National Living Wage to cover all workers, regardless of age, and increase it to £10/hour by 2020.
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